Study finds alcohol mouthwashes can affect oral health

The research, conducted by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, Belgium, focused on men who have sexual relations with other men

By Anoushka Caroline Williams  Published on  16 Jun 2024 7:41 AM GMT
Study finds alcohol mouthwashes can affect oral health

Hyderabad: A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology stated that the regular use of alcohol-based mouthwashes may negatively impact the oral microbiome, potentially increasing the risk of periodontal diseases and certain cancers. The oral microbiome is crucial for digestion and maintaining oral health.

The research, conducted by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, Belgium, focused on men who have sexual relations with other men. These individuals often use mouthwash to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Over three months, daily use of alcohol-based mouthwash led to an increase in two species of opportunistic bacteria: Fusobacterium nucleatum and Streptococcus anginosus.

These bacteria are associated with a higher risk of gum disease, as well as oesophageal and colorectal cancers.

Impact on beneficial bacteria

The study also noted a decrease in Actinobacteria, a group of bacteria essential for regulating blood pressure. This finding highlighted the delicate balance of the oral microbiome and the potential consequences of disrupting it with regular use of alcohol-based mouthwashes.

Expert opinions

Dr Jolein Laumen from ITM’s Unit of Sexually Transmitted Infections emphasised the importance of awareness regarding the use of these mouthwashes.

“Alcohol-based mouthwashes are widely available. The public may use them daily to tackle bad breath or prevent periodontitis, but they should be aware of the potential implications. Ideally, long-term usage should be guided by healthcare professionals,” she said.

Local insights

Dr Ramesh Reddy, a dentist in Hyderabad, concurred with the findings.

He stated, “The oral microbiome plays a significant role in maintaining oral and overall health. Disruption of this balance can lead to various health issues. It’s crucial to consider the long-term effects of products we use regularly.”

Dr Anjali Rao, another Hyderabad-based dental specialist, added, “While alcohol-based mouthwashes are effective in reducing bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease, their impact on beneficial bacteria cannot be overlooked. Patients should consult with their dentists to choose the right oral care products.”

Call for further research

The researchers from ITM have called for larger studies to establish the risk more definitively. Understanding the broader implications of altering the oral microbiome is essential for providing better health recommendations.

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